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hives at the Amherst state apiary

UMass Honey Testing Project

UMass Honey Testing Project

Beekeepers in Massachusetts care about producing safe high-quality honey. When bees forage, they encounter environmental contaminants such as pesticides, which they bring back to the hive. Understanding how these pesticides are stored in the hive would provide Massachusetts beekeepers with information they could use to better safeguard their honey and improve the health of their bees. Thankfully, past research suggests that pesticides accumulate in wax and pollen, not honey. 

 

As part of a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR), we will be testing honey from backyard beekeepers around Massachusetts for pesticide residues, and comparing it to pesticide levels found in generic commercial honey from outside the state. This project builds on a previous study, in which we measured pesticide residues in pollen and wax from Massachusetts backyard beekeepers (you can read more about those results here). The goal of this project is to get a more complete picture of the pesticides that our bees are exposed to, and to understand how those pesticides may be stored in the hive. We are also interested in the relationship between land use and pesticide residues. Based on previous research and known pesticide chemistry, we expect to find extremely low levels of pesticides in Massachusetts honey, on par with or better than other foods. We expect our results will give MA beekeepers greater confidence selling and sharing honey and will allow us to compare local honey to generic national and international products. This research will also increase our understanding of how environmental contaminants move through honey bee hives and improve our ability to protect bee health. 

 

Our goal is to test honey samples from 40 Massachusetts beekeepers. Participating beekeepers will send in a small (2 Tbsp or 1/8 cup) honey sample collected in July 2021 to UMass Extension. The pesticide test (normally $75 a sample) is free for participants, though you will be asked to cover the cost of ground shipping to Amherst for your sample. 

 

If you are an MA beekeeper and would like to participate in this study, please fill out the following interest form by May 15. We hope to include all interested beekeepers, though if we receive >40 requests we will select the 40 apiaries representing maximum statewide geographic coverage. Once you fill out the form, we will be in touch to let you know whether there are remaining openings in your part of the state, and to send along more information about sampling protocols.

 

A note about personal information: we understand that pesticides can be a sensitive topic. We will not use any personal information when reporting data – your contact information will only be used for our communication with you. When filling out the form, we do request that you include your email address so that we can reach you if we have any questions about your sample. We will also request that participating beekeepers share the exact honey harvest date and the GPS coordinates of the hive along with their honey sample, as this will be used to perform a landscape analysis on the results. The locations of your hive will be kept confidential, and shared only as aggregate data (e.g. "honey from hives in urban areas had no detected neonicotinoids"). 

 

If you have any questions, please email extension educator Hannah Whitehead at hwhitehead@umass.edu.

 

A jar of honey